{travel} My Big Fat Greek Summer

Elafonisos, Panagia beach
Panagia Beach, Elafonisos

I usually spend my summers in Greece, though in the past I used to travel for a couple of weeks abroad with my family. What made this summer more “Greek” is the fact that I visited 4 islands within the span of 2 months. And no, there was no Mykonos this year (last year I visited Mykonos twice and just had enough).

Kea (Tzia)

My first “stop” was a weekend in Kea, which is the nearest to Athens island of the Cyclades. It is just one hour boat ride from Lavrio! I’ve been to Kea many times in the past and I like it a lot. I guess I am a bit biased because a family friend owns a house there, with a terrific view!!!

The downside about Kea is, that the beaches are not near the port (where most of the hotels are) and the road that leads to some of them is not an asphalt roadway. Koundouros is the most famous beach (only 20km from the port!!!), has a beach bar/restaurant and many houses scattered around (I forgot to tell you that Kea is a bit of an elite island and many “celebrities” have a house there). Otzias is another famous beach on the north. The pros is that it is closer to the port. The cons is that during the summer the wind usually blows from the north! Xyla is one of my favorite beaches near the port, but with a dirt road. I haven’t been there lately, but I remember that I liked it!

The port (Korissia) and Vourkari (a nearby settlement), are ideal for nightlife. There you can find many restaurants, cafes, bars and a couple of clubs. Ioulis is the capital of Kea and is located up on the mountain. It is worth a visit and a walk in its stone paved streets. For more information about Kea you can visit the respective website.

koundouros beach sep 2009
Koundouros Beach, Kea (picture taken September 2009)
Koundouros kea
Koundouros Beach, Kea, picture taken July 2010

Elafonisos

Ah! Elafonisos is my newest favorite island. It is located in southern Greece and it can be reached by car (after driving through Peloponnesus) and a 10’ ferry ride. Elafonisos is a small island famous for its beached and turquoise water. You really feel that you are in some exotic place!!! Simos is the most famous beach, but you can also visit Panagia which is equally beautiful.

Elafonisos Simos Beach
Elafonisos Simos Beach
Elafonisos Simos Beach
Elafonisos Simos Beach
Elafonisos Simos Beach
Elafonisos Simos Beach
Elafonisos Small Simos Beach
Elafonisos Small Simos Beach

The port is the place where the hotels, restaurants and cafes are. There are plenty of options on what to eat: fish, meat, sandwiches, desserts!!! The one thing I totally recommend is the café called “Stin Akri” (meaning “On the End), which has a lovely décor, is always full of people and makes delicious club sandwiches!!!

Cat jumps to catch fish
Cat jumps to catch fish
Lanterns at "stin Akri"
Lanterns at “stin Akri”
Church in Elafonisos
Church in Elafonisos

Paros

I caught a very little glimpse of Paros last year, so this year I came back in order to have a better outlook of this popular destination! Paros has 2 main cities: Parikia, where the port is, and Naousa, which is larger and more picturesque according to my opinion. I stayed in Naousa in a lovely hotel named Senia.

Senia Hotel Paros

Senia Hotel Paros

I am not the greatest fan of Paros beaches I have to admit! They weren’t “turquoise” enough for my standards!!! :P But if you do visit Paros, make sure to visit Kolymbithres, which is a beach with peculiar rock formations. Santa Maria is popular beach as is Punda Beach (for teenagers). My favorite beach has to be Farangas on the southern tip of Paros. I was much quieter than the other beaches.

Kolimpithres, Paros
Kolimpithres, Paros
Farangas, Paros
Farangas, Paros

Food-wise, you have to visit Soso in Naoussa. Just ask around and people will give you directions! That’s what I did! The small port in Naoussa also has some interesting restaurants if you’d like to eat some fish! Nearby are also the bars of Naoussa, where all young people gather at night to party!

Naoussa, Paros
Naoussa, Paros

Lefkada

Lefkada is located in western Greece in the Ionian sea and has some of the most beautiful beaches in Greece. Porto Katsiki is the most famous one. It is one hour drive from the city but well worth it! Also beautiful: Egkremnoi (meaning Cliffs) beach. This is not for the light-hearted as there are 450 steps to get to the shore (and then up again). Also notable beaches are Kathisma and Ag. Nikitas. The kite surfing fans can visit Ag. Ioannis, where there is wind every day.

Porto Katsiki May 2009
Porto Katsiki May 2009
Porto Katsiki August 2010
Porto Katsiki August 2010
Kathisma May 2009
Kathisma May 2009
Kathisma August 2010
Kathisma August 2010
Egkremnoi May 2009
Egkremnoi May 2009
Egkremnoi August 2010
Egkremnoi August 2010

Ag. Ioannis is also a perfect place to stay. There are numerous small hotels (“Villas”) with large gardens and many trees (so it isn’t hot at night). I stayed in Villa Verde but there are many more to choose from.

cat at villa verde
Cat at Villa Verde
villa verde lefkada
Villa Verde

When visiting Lefkada, don’t just consume your time by solely visiting the beaches and the waterfront villages (such as Nydri or Vassiliki). The mountain villages, such as Karia, worth a visit, especially for lunch or dinner.

Nidri, Lefkada
Nidri, Lefkada

The city of Lefkada offers a lot of choices for eating and drinking. As far as restaurants are concerned, I recommend “Thymari” which is located in a small street and has excellent cuisine and “Festino” which is an Italian restaurant, located near the marina.